The city of Armagh is one of Ireland’s oldest, and is widely recognized as the country’s centre for organized religion. Armagh is the archdiocesan capital of both the Roman Catholic and Protestant (Church of Ireland) faiths.
The life of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is deeply entwined in the early history of Armagh. The city’s birth occurred during the saint’s lifetime, he spent a good deal of time there, and Armagh’s two large cathedrals bear his name.
- St. Patrick was a missionary, born in Britain, but carried by kidnappers to Ireland where he was forced into service as a shepherd
- Some time later, he escaped and fled to France, where he became a Christian and dedicated himself to a lifelong study of the Christian theology
- He returned to Ireland in 432, arriving in County Down
- He travelled the Irish countryside and towns, converting and baptizing the Celtic tribes, founding churches and encouraging the establishment of monasteries
- St. Patrick spent quite a bit of time in Armagh city, and referred to it as “my sweet hill”
- Today, the Anglican St. Patrick’s Cathedral stands on the spot where the saint founded his church
- The most popular legend associated with his life attributes Ireland’s complete lack of snakes to the fact that St. Patrick banished them all into the ocean during his lifetime
As for today’s Armagh, it is a city involved in renovation and development, although it retains the best of its medieval design, architecture, and charm.
What was once a racetrack, located at the centre of town, is now an attractive mall.
Georgian architecture, complete with terraces, also accents the beauty of this small but thriving city, which was once involved in ongoing sectarian conflict.